Today a poster on the Cleveland Food and Wine Forum asked if anyone had tried the Old Carolina BBQ Company located in both North Canton and Massillon. I replied almost instantly with a link to my previous review here. As I started to re-read my review, I realized that I hadn't been in a while and suddenly the craving for good BBQ started. Fortunately for me, all this happened before lunchtime, so it was quite easy to arrange my schedule so that I could stop at Old Carolina in the hour or so I had during the middle of my workday.
Since I forgot to take a photo of the exterior of the North Canton location on my last visit, I thought I'd remedy that now:
When I arrived at the North Canton location near Belden Village, it was incredibly busy; more busy in fact than I've ever seen it. Which is good because I want a local business with such a unique product to do well. However, my delight soon melted away when I realized the repercussions of "incredibly busy" meant about a ten minute wait just to place my order.
I normally order the pulled pork sandwich when I go. Today I was feeling in the mood for something different. Since I now had some time to study the wall menu a little more intently, I decided on a different path. When I finally got to the front of the line, I placed an order for the Tar Heel Dogs and made it into a platter by adding skin-on garlic mashed potatoes and a serving of Brunswick stew.
Now I knew it was a North Carolina tradition to serve a bit of cole slaw on top of a pulled pork sandwich. However, I wasn't familiar with the concept of a hot dog topped with Old Carolina's baked beans and cole slaw. I did a little research on the Internet when I returned from the restaurant and discovered that according to this Wikipedia article:
"Carolina hot dogs are served with chili and cole slaw, mustard, and onions. Most vendors use cole slaw, but some places use a vinegar-based variation called BBQ slaw, which is an eastern North Carolina variant. This style is called all the way and/or 'a slaw dog.' The practice of eating cole slaw on hot dogs in the Carolinas probably came from expatriate West Virginians moving south to seek employment."
So, the Tar Heel dogs served at Old Carolina are not exactly what one would find in North Carolina, but in the same spirit.
After about ten more minutes, my food basket finally arrived. Here is a shot of the entire platter:
And individual shots of the garlic mashed potatoes:
The Brunswick stew:
And, finally, of the Tar Heel dogs themselves:
The skin-on garlic mashed potatoes were nice and creamy and exploded with garlic and potato goodness. At first I thought they might be a tad salty, but when I re-visited them after trying everything on my plate, the saltiness turned out not to be an issue. These weren't redskin potatoes (or new potatoes), but they had a wonderful texture just the same.
The word "stew" in Brunswick stew is sort of a misnomer. When I think of stews, I think of a thick, hearty liquid which is thicker than a broth soup, but thinner than a gravy. Brunswick stew is closer to a broth-based soup, specifically a tomato-broth based soup. It has both the pulled pork and smoked chicken in it along with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, corn and lima beans. This was also quite delicious.
Finally, the Tar Heel dogs. As you can imagine, these are incredibly messy to eat. I almost felt like I needed to be hosed off afterward, at least my hands and face. But they were very, very good. The hot dogs themselves were juicy and plump. The combination of their baked beans (which I really am beginning to love) and the creamy, crunchy cole slaw on top was a wonderful way to top the dogs. And as an added bonus, after I finished the dogs, I got to eat everything that fell off them and onto the waiting plate below.
Once again Old Carolina has satiated my need for a good old-fashioned BBQ fix. I highly recommend you check them out at either one of their current locations. Do note that according to their website, they will soon be opening an Akron location as well. I know that I'm looking forward to having an Old Carolina BBQ Company a little closer to my home in Akron so that I can get my BBQ fix even more quickly than I can right now.